Sunday, February 10, 2013

What's the plan, Stan?

Since I very first started to tell people that I was expecting the first question out of people's mouths seems to be, "So what's your birthing plan?". In the first weeks, I didn't even know what this really meant. I had seen enough movies and had enough friends give birth to know that this was an important item to have nailed down, I just didn't know what I was supposed to do. Where was I to start? What book should I read to give me step by step instructions on what was best for me? Let me tell ya, there is no book or website or forum that can answer these questions. Your birthing plan is totally unique to you and your situation. Some women have pages of detailed instructions to hand over to the nursing staff upon hospital arrival and some have a napkin with some notes scribbled on it. I fall into the later category.

In the last few months I have been talking to a lot of friends who are parents, some of whom have read every single book on the market, some who had no plan at all, and each has a similar story; plan all you want but it's going to happen however it happens and your plan cannot dictate this. You truly have no control over how it plays out, only in how you deal with it. For example, my amazing sister just had a beautiful, healthy baby boy in December. She is one who read many books, studied birthing methods and finally settled on hypnobirthing. If you aren't familiar with this method allow me to break it down:
The approach is all about relaxation and letting go of fear. Fear is the enemy during labor and birth. It makes you tense, it tightens up your body, blocks the production of endorphins, and creates more pain. With this method you condition your mind for months in advance to visualize positive birthing outcomes, your body relaxing and opening. You use breathing techniques to calm yourself and relaxation techniques to allow yourself to let go of the fear that the inevitable pain of labor brings. It's also big on partner participation and having the father be involved in the labor and birthing process rather than sitting in the waiting room. It's all very interesting and can really be applied in daily life just as effectively as during labor.

So, my amazing sister and her amazing husband have committed to this method of natural childbirth and spent months practicing these techniques, including listening to positive affirmation cd's. It's a lot of work! Her due date comes and it goes, but the beauty of committing to natural childbirth is you don't have a doctor pestering you to induce labor. Instead, they offer what they call a membrane sweep, clearing the cervix of the mucous plug and hopefully stimulating labor. It's pretty common from what I hear. She said that this effort worked almost immediately. Good news! She labored at home for a few hours until her contractions were the standard 4 minutes apart, and they headed calmly off to the birthing center to get the ball rolling. Like I said, she's pretty amazing.

If I'm not mistaken, a short 3 hours later she was utilizing the jacuzzi tub, along with some of her relaxation techniques to ease the pain, but felt a strong urge to push. It was all happening very quickly. She requested her midwife be notified but the nursing staff insisted that she wasn't ready and to just try getting back to her room to relax more and they would let the midwife know she may want to arrive soon. Thank goodness my sister is strong willed and knows her body! She stepped out of the tub, laid down on the lounge in the jacuzzi room and told them to get the midwife right away. No sooner did the midwife arrive and take a look than he was crowning and ready to join the world. Four (yes four!) pushes later, her son was born right there next to the tub. Some of the hypnobirthing methods were used but in reality, he came so quickly that most weren't used at all. You can plan and prepare and condition for months, but that baby is going to come his or her way, and at their own pace and there is nothing you can do about it.

While I do intend to use some of the hypnobirthing methods during my labor, I'm not fully committed to it. I'm not fully committed to any method or real plan at all. I don't want to pressure myself into thinking I can do natural childbirth only to find out that I can't handle it at all and feel like I let myself and my baby down by needing drugs. In the other hand, I don't want to mentally commit to having an epidural and then have it happen so quickly that I end up doing it naturally and having my baby in a state of high anxiety and fear. I know that I do not want to be induced even if I'm overdue. I know that I do not want to have a c-section. I know that I do not want an audience and that the room will be cleared of everyone except my partner and medical staff when it comes down to it. I know that I don't want camera flashes going off like the friggin paparazzi are all up in my vagina. I know that I do not want a grouchy nursing staff and I'll be super pissed if that's what I end up with, but that's about all I know. Some of the things I don't want mixed with the few obvious things that I do want is all I can hope for. I want a healthy, happy baby and a good birthing experience.

It's going to hurt. There's just no getting around it. It's a painful and messy process. I may let loose some wicked farts. I may poop. I may throw up at some point. I may tell my fella it's all his fault. I may tell a nurse to get her shitty attitude out of my birthing suite. There will be blood. There will be pain. There will be gross stuff but it will be worth every single tiny little bit of unpleasantness when I get to see him, and his proud papa's reaction for the first time. I could cry right now just thinking about how happy I'm going to be.

So, what is my birthing plan? To remain fucking calm! Seriously, it's simply to remain calm and let my body and my baby tell me what I need to do. I'm not going to build up images of what's going to occur. I'm not going to say I can do it without the help of drugs, or that I'll need drugs at all. I just plan to stay as calm as possible, let my body relax and my breathing stay controlled and welcome my little man, the love of my life, into the world in whatever fashion he arrives in. Learning to let go is something I've struggled with my entire life but in this particular situation, I'm finding it very simple. I have no control over how this is going to happen and building up expectations in my mind isn't going to do me any good. Women have been doing this for a long time before me and they'll continue for a long time after. I'm just a speck in the grand scheme and I find a certain amount of comfort in that. My body was made for this and I trust that. This emotional roller coaster, this discomfort, this entire process that seems like forever but has flown by like minutes, is going to bring me the greatest love that I have ever known and I feel unbelievably lucky for every second of it. I find calm in that.

When I think about love, both the kind you find with a partner and the kind you find from becoming a parent, I think of the poet Rumi and some of his amazingly wise words. One poem in particular has always stuck with me and it resonates more now than ever before.

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.” 

Just 6 weeks left. Stay calm, Autumn. Stay calm.

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